150 years. On 26th October 1863, representatives of a dozen London and Southern clubs came together to “establish a definite code of rules for the regulation of the game.” Today marks 150 years to the day that the laws of football were first written. Since then, the game has been grace with some incredible players, managers, games and moments.
In the words of legendary Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly, “Football is not a matter of life and death, it is much more.” To some it is just a game. To some it is barbaric. While to others, it is overpaid men running around chasing a ball for an hour and a half.
But to the rest of us it is much, much more. The drama, the action, the adrenaline, the joy, the excitement are all things fans crave. Walking into a stadium and seeing the freshly cut grass and thousands of other fans creates a feeling that can be matched nowhere else. The crowd rising to celebrate a goal or a brilliant piece of skill gives Goosebumps to one and all. The disappointment of seeing your team lose and the opposition fans gloat bring about anger like no else.
Football is not just going to a stadium or buying the replica shirts. Football is not turning up and cheering the team and the players. You can’t choose when you support your team. “If you can’t support us when we lose, you don’t deserve to support us when we win.”
In just the British game names like Sir Alex Ferguson, Bill Shankly, Bill Nicholson, Bob Paisley and Brian Clough gave up their entire lives and dedicated every minute to their club and the game. Whether they would appreciate the state of the modern game is unknown but the game we see today is not the game they instilled. Tony Adams’ saying is not always compatible to modern day players. He said, “If you play for the badge on the front of the shirt, they will always remember the name on the back.”
There have been some incredible players; Zidane, Ronaldinho, Van Basten, Maradona, Pele, Messi, Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Figo to name just a few of the famous, famous players to have graces the Earth with their wonderful skill. To include them all would take forever and to pick out the best of the lot is impossible. We have been blessed with so many incredible individuals.
Finally, football may play host to intense rivalries and ignite hatred and even racism amongst fans and players, the game means so much to so many people. Football fans are not just fans, we are a family – the football family. Football is not just a sport, it is a language. If you go to Barcelona or Bolivia, Manchester or Mumbai you will find someone who lives and breathes football. Whether they play in a park, on the beach or in the garden using bins or jumpers for goalposts, football reaches out to millions across the globe.
During my holiday to Cambodia, I played with ten native teenage boys for twenty minutes by merely saying the words “me play?” We ended up speaking about Manchester United, Moyes, Rooney, Messi and Bale. Neither could speak the other’s language but we had free-flowing conversation whilst playing some lovely football.
Finishing with a quote from Arsenal legend, Dennis Bergkamp – “When you start supporting a club, you don’t support it because of trophies, it’s history or a player. You support the club because you found yourself there, a place where you belong.” Football is a sense of unity, family and belonging. Long may this continue. Happy Birthday, Football. Bring on the next 150 years.